Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Creativity before safety

This last week was dedicated mostly to Christmas preparations and "creativity before safety" should be the motto here. The Christmas lights went up and are outstanding in their simplicity. Of particular interest are the Church lights that look like someone just threw them like spaghetti to a wall and let them rest where they landed. One very interesting and dangerous tradition here is to set up a massive bonfire in the church square. The fire is lit on the 24th at midnight and lasts the whole night through. It is a massive fire. The tree trunks are huge and I saw at least 4 loads emptied out this last saturday. The church and houses surrounding the square will be hosed down with water the whole night through and the windows and doors will be shielded with metal sheets. I have heard that you need to stand a few meters away from the fire so you don´t roast and that at around 4 am when the fire has cooled a little a few brave men will steal some ambers and bring them to a safe enough distance to grill spare ribs and other pork bits. I can´t wait.

I had another lesson this week, this time on how to set up the loom. It was time consuming and very hard work but very rewarding.

Two stick shuttles arrived in the mail. These are much smaller than the ones I was using and are making my work a lot faster. You can see a new scarf in progress. My fabric labels finally arrived.

If you have not yet done so you are very welcome to visit the new shop on Etsy where you can just check out or buy my handwoven work. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Winding a warp

This wednesday I visited Sra. Ludovina who has agreed to teach me how to set up and use a loom. The first lesson was on how to wind the warp on a warping board. This is according weavers I have met the secret to weaving and a very crucial part in the process where no mistake can be made. When you wind a warp you decide the length of your warp as well as width. Twelve threads are wound at a time using a warping paddle, a sword like wooden tool (this one has twelve holes) that separates the threads and also allows you to make the threading cross by picking the threads by hand. I was unable to master the picking of the threads to make the cross and so Sra. Ludovina let me bring home a threading paddle to practice. There are 2 crosses that are made while making the warp. The threading cross is the first cross at the beginning of the warping board where the threads alternate one by one. At the end of the warping board another cross is made. This second cross os called a raddle cross. Here the number of threads is equivalent to the number of threads in the threading paddle, in our case twelve were used and so a complete cross has 24 threads. All of these details are important for setting up the loom as well as for working out the width your work.

It was important that we do the winding of the warp not on a tuesday or friday. According to the lady who taught Sra. Ludovina how to weave, these days are witch´s days. On these days you don´t marry your daughters or wind a warp. That is very specific, and the truth of it is that we really don´t know what would happen if you warped on either of these 2 days because Sra. Ludovina has made a point not mess with the witches. 

You can see the loom in the background of the second photo. It will be very time consuming to set it up but I think it will be relatively simple.

This week I also finished 2 more scarves, printed some paper tags and am still waiting on some fabric tags. I am hoping to have the scarves up for sale asap, it feels like I say this every week, but the truth is I am kind of stuck on how to best photograph them. And the weather continues to be overcast so I don´t have ideal light conditions, my studio has very little natural light, something else I need to take care of asap.

All things considered it was a relatively productive week. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


One man´s trash is another woman´s treasure. And so it was that all of these beautiful things came to be mine. Among the loot were 2 patchwork quilts which I need to repair because some of the fabrics are torn. It will be a fun job.

It is getting super cold outside (and inside), temperatures will drop to -3 and they say it will snow at 1000 meter altitudes and above over the next few days. Uuuuu... that should be fun. I am not particularly fond of the cold but I have never lived in a place where it snows, and even though it will not snow here, our town is at the bottom of a valley, I am sure it will somewhere near. Today the small pond at our place and the water in a bucket that had been left outside overnight had iced over.

I am continuing to work on scarves on the loom, but I can barely stand it in the studio. Today my breath was foggy! I have a gas heater, which is dangerously close, to keep me warm and I fear the whole right side of my body where it is nearest will roast or develop some long term damage. An alternative winter workspace is needed. The studio is just too holly to practically and inexpensively make and keep warm. This should not come as a surprise, it used to be a barn to keep animals and farm stuff, the walls are made of stone and the floor concrete. Perfect in Summer.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Very talented friends: Jorge Vaz Gomes

Photography: Jorge Vaz Gomes

I have been meaning to do this for quite sometime. I am getting a little tired of showing you my stuff all the time and considering I have some very talented friends it is a very good opportunity to share with you their work. This is the first of a series, we have to start somewhere, where you will see many outstanding talents. 

This Summer my very special friend Jorge Vaz Gomes came to visit me and the studio. He is a wonderful and very talented photographer. He describes himself as "... a photography and video plastic artist." I am glad he did not miss the opportunity to take some photos during his visit. These are just two of the photos he took. The first is of yours truly working away on a patchwork quilt and the other of the beautiful stonework window and the garden outside.

Today is the official launch of Jorge´s online portfolio and you can have a look at his brilliant work here, www.jorgevazgomes.com. Enjoy! :-)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Finally my first...

This week I finished my jacket. I wove it in 4 parts. The back and front were woven in one piece followed by the hood and the 2 sleeves. I was supposed to have made 2 pockets but in the end I ran out of warp, not due to a miscalculation but because I forgot I had decided to leave less than the recommended 20cm between each of the woven pieces. I think it looks great like this but the pockets will come in handy and so I will weave them separately when I get the chance. I had to make some unforeseen alterations because the original instructions were for a jacket made with much thicker wool but I think that considering that it was my first jacket and that the instructions were in French, it turned out pretty good. I need to thank my super helpful translators, Roni and Rui.

If you like this jacket and would like to have one made you can get in touch with me. Now I am getting on with weaving more scarves so that I can have them ready for sale as soon as possible, because if you live anywhere near this side of the world you must be feeling the cold by now. We sure are. Brrrrr.

This week I also finally managed to post a friend a small selection of wild aromatic plants I collected and dried during spring and summer to infuse and make "tea". I have a nice selection including St. John´s Wort, Pennyroyal, Heather, Linden, Lemongrass and Lemon Verbena.

I finally got around to visiting our town´s cemetery.

And I also at long last got to see Angelina bake her famous wood fired bread, which is absolutely delicious.

Today I realised after seeing the sun set on my way home that we don´t get to see it from our town. This is quite sad and even sadder to forget that the sun sets at all just because you have not seen it do so in a long time.

And so it seems it was a week for many firsts and finales, which as it turns out were actually the same.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rainy day, mushroom pillow...

Mushrooms, mushrooms and more mushrooms. Some can kill you, some smell like aniseed and are excellent to make sweets. I have been exploring the countryside and am amazed by the variety of mushrooms. The other day I saw some that looked like fried eggs "sunny side up" and others that were tiny and looked like nests with eggs inside them. Amazing really.

There are also chestnuts to collect to roast or boil with aniseed and Irish strawberries to pick and get drunk on, straight off the tree.

I am making a hooded jacket on the loom and it is coming along nicely. But today it was so cold that it hurt to touch everything in the studio. As it turns out the studio is like a massive fridge. Great in Summer but not so great right now.

A book was given to me as a gift to help me learn how to sew. It will come in very handy. I also just realised that all the Heather that is still abloom all around our place is excellent to make tea and so I got busy collecting and preparing to dry it.

So many things to do.

Friday, October 19, 2012

New quilt and New pure 100% wool

This week I started a new little patchwork quilt and then my sewing machine decided that it needed a break. The machine is now being repaired by a very friendly old man that cuts hair by day and fixes machines by night. I am quietly confident that soon I will be sewing again.

Also this week a new lot of wool arrived. It is "Escocesa", 100% Portuguese new wool. The factory that made this wool no longer exists and so I am trying to buy as much as I can find so that I have enough wool to keep on weaving.

This week it rained for 2 straight days and the temperatures dropped quite dramatically. Even thought it is only just the beginning of Autumn and the leaves on the trees are not yet going yellow, every night we have lit the fireplace.

With the sewing machine out of action and while waiting for the wool to arrive, it was a week for other things.

And so the list went:
-collecting firewood- check
-picking quince to make quince jam/marmelade- check
-planting cabbage and lettuce in my wicking chest- check
-drying figs- check
-suspicious cute little cat- check
-friendly neighbour making illegal firewater (the whole town smells like a brewery)- check

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Berries, pie, Schnapps and scarf

So Summer has all but gone now but there are many fruits to collect and savour and preserve for the colder months. There are still many wild blackberries to be picked though many have started to wither and dry. And the figs are also just starting to ripen on our tree, a little later than normal but very welcome just the same. I decided to make a pie with them. If you want to make a pie it is the simplest thing on earth. I bought the fluff pastry and the nectarines from the supermarket. You can use any fruit that is juicy and sweet. I imagine peaches, plums and pears work well... well it is really up to you, but I would use seasonal fruit because it just makes sense. So... line your oven proof tray with your pastry, leave lining paper. Sprinkle the pastry with a tiny bit of brown sugar and then make a first layer with the berries, just throw them, no need to arrange them in neat rows. I think the berries work best underneath the rest of the fruit because they remain nice and juicy. Then cut the rest of the fruit and arrange in neat rows, this helps with even baking and restoring some order to the universe, and sprinkle again with a little bit of sugar. Bake at medium heat and check it now and then, when the pastry begins to cooks around the edges and turns a nice and golden, it is ready. Yum!

There are many Hawthorn trees, near our place by the creek, and I decided I needed to make something with the ripe berries. Schnapps... yes...of course. It will be ready just in time for the super cold months and the Christmas and New Year festivities. I have never made Schnapps before, but I am sure nothing can go wrong here. I followed this Hawthorn Schnapps recipe and it seems to be doing what it is supposed to do... but maybe on second thought I should make some more. All you need for this recipe is time, berries and vodka. The Schnapps you see is only one week old and the colour is already so beautiful, you can see how the colour has all but gone from the berries to the vodka. Triple yum!

To end the week... another scarf finished.